Alabama’s land-grant universities teaming up in bioenergy research

AUBURN – An Alabama agricultural land-grant alliance of three Alabama universities has been awarded a USDA Grand Challenge Award for its proposal to help move the nation toward bioenergy.

Auburn University’s Natural Resources Management and Development Institute and its Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, in collaboration with Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University, submitted “Partnerships: The Pathway to a Vibrant Bioeconomy for Alabama” to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “25x’25 Alliance” competition. The USDA’s goal is to develop technology and plans that could help provide 25 percent of the country’s energy from renewable resources by the year 2025.

Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Natural Resources Management and Development Institute, and Steve Taylor, director of the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, will present the proposal at the REE Bio Energy Awareness Days in Washington, D.C., June 19-22. The acronym, REE, is from the research, education and economics mission of the USDA. Auburn University, one of 15 winning schools, will also demonstrate its new mobile biomass gasification unit at the conference.

“We are extremely grateful for this recognition,” Fillmer said. “Multidisciplinary programs at each land-grant institution are working to contribute to the nation’s alternative energy needs in a way that utilizes Alabama’s abundant natural resources.”

He said that Auburn University concentrates on the use of biomass resources for conversion to liquid fuels, electrical power, heat and other higher-value products; Alabama A&M University emphasizes oilseed crop production; and Tuskegee University emphasizes starch crop production. The alliance also includes the universities’ research partners, the USDA Forest Service, USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory and Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, praised the researchers for their efforts to use renewable materials found in Alabama, such as forestry products and wood chips.

“This USDA award is an important recognition of Auburn’s commitment to research on biofuels and alternative energy,” Sessions said. “Our nation faces a number of serious energy challenges, including rising prices and a growing dependence on foreign oil.”

Contact: Leslie Parsons, (334) 844-6142, (leslie@auburn.edu), or
Larry Fillmer, (334) 844-6142, (fillmjl@auburn.edu)